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Gov. Kathy Hochul declares 'disaster emergency' in New York until mid-January over omicron despite no cases of new variant in the US yet
Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul declares 'disaster emergency' in New York until mid-January over omicron despite no cases of new variant in the US yet

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a "disaster emergency" for the state in anticipation of the newly-identified omicron variant of COVID-19.

The Democratic governor declared a state of emergency for the entire state of New York through Jan. 15, 2022, when it will be evaluated if the order needs to be extended. The previous coronavirus-related state of emergency was enacted by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo from March 7, 2020, until June 24, 2021.

Hochul admitted that there have yet to be any omicron variant cases in New York state.

"We continue to see warning signs of spikes in COVID this winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it's coming," Hochul tweeted on Friday. "Today I signed an Executive Order to help @HealthNYGov boost hospital capacity ahead of potential spikes. Through this action, we will also be able to acquire critical supplies more quickly to combat the pandemic. I urge New Yorkers to take advantage of our greatest weapon in this pandemic: the vaccine. Get vaccinated and get the booster as soon as you are able."

The official New York state government website stated, "For samples of SARS-CoV-2 collected between November 7 and November 20, 2021 from New York State that are sequenced and entered into Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), 100% were the Delta variant."

The state of emergency order enables Holchul to "temporarily suspend or modify any statute, local law, ordinance, order, rule, or regulation, or parts thereof, of any agency during a State disaster emergency, if compliance with such statute, local law, ordinance, order, rule, or regulation would prevent, hinder, or delay action necessary to cope with the disaster emergency or if necessary to assist or aid in coping with such disaster."

Under the executive order, non-essential procedures and elective surgeries can be postponed in order to increase hospital capacity.

Hochul is concerned about hospital capacity because medical care employees were forced out of the healthcare industry because of New York's vaccine mandate. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Aug. 16 that "all healthcare workers in New York State, including staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities (LTCF), including nursing homes, adult care, and other congregate care settings, will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, September 27."

On Long Island, Mount Sinai South Nassau medical center temporarily closed earlier this week due to nursing staff shortages, according to WABC-TV.

Earlier this month, Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse announced it was temporarily closing 20% of patient beds due to an ongoing shortage of nurses, WSTM-TV reported.

Catholic Health's Mercy Hospital of Buffalo announced on Nov. 18, that it was expected to close until Jan. 3, 2022, because of "continued healthcare staffing shortages across the region and a sharp rise in COVID-19 patients at area hospitals."

In September, Holchul threatened to replace COVID-19 vaccine-hesitant healthcare workers with foreigners by working with the Department of State.

According to New York data, the state has a 7-day average of 34 cases per 100,000.

Of New Yorkers over the age of 18, there are 90% who have had one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 80% who are fully vaccinated.

The omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first discovered in southern Africa in Botswana and South Africa.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee — chair of the South African Medical Association and physician of 33 years — explained it is too early to go into panic mode over omicron.

"It's all speculation at this stage," Coetzee told The Guardian. "It may be it's highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild. Maybe two weeks from now I will have a different opinion, but this is what we are seeing. So are we seriously worried? No. We are concerned and we watch what's happening. But for now we're saying, 'OK: there's a whole hype out there. [We're] not sure why.'"

On Saturday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said no cases of the omicron variant had been diagnosed in the U.S., but it could be here already.

"I would not be surprised if it is," President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser told NBC's "Weekend Today."

"We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you're already having travel-related cases that they've noted in Israel and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over," Fauci added.

The Biden administration instituted a travel ban for travelers from eight African countries in fear of the omicron variant.

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